This DIY drawstring backpack is an easy sewing project perfect for beginners! It’s simple to sew and makes a cute backpack that kids and teens will love.
A DIY drawstring backpack is a great beginner sewing project! It’s easy to make and you’ll end up with a useful bag that’s also quite cute!
It’s especially nice to use as a first sewing project when teaching a teen to sew. They’ll enjoy being able to pick out the fabrics to give their own stamp of personality to it. The bag is made from quilting weight cottons which are easy to find in a wide range of colors and prints and styles.
The drawstring is lined which creates a nice finish on the inside and also adds strength and durability. The rope shoulder straps are threaded through a casing at the top to make a simple drawstring closure.
At the top, there’s also a handy hanging loop to make it easy to hang your backpack from a hook. (That’s an optional feature – not necessary at all, but a nice “extra” if you don’t mind adding in an extra step or two.)
The finished size is roughly 12” wide x 16” tall, which is big enough to hold books for a trip to the library or a change of clothes for an overnight trip.
I’ve got even more beginner sewing project inspiration for you! Check out my roundup full of cute and easy things to sew for lots of beginner sewing ideas!
Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps and sections. I wrote the instructions with more words and steps to make it easier for beginners to know what to do.
There are also a couple of optional sections that you can skip over if you want to keep things super simple. The hanging loop is a nice addition but isn’t necessary. And I liked the look of the tabs and hanging loop being the same fabric as the lining and casing, but you can just use grosgrain ribbon or twill tape instead and shave off a couple of steps.
If you’ve got scraps left over from making your backpack, why not also make a matching pencil case? I’ve got an easy zipper pencil case tutorial you can use.
How to sew a DIY Drawstring Backpack
You’ll need ½ yard of quilting cotton for the main fabric, 2/3 yard of quilting cotton for the lining fabric, and 4 yards of cotton rope or cording.
Some terms to know
If you’re new to sewing, here are some terms that will be helpful to know:
Raw edge –An unfinished edge of a piece of fabric
Right sides together – Placing layers of fabric with their right sides (the pretty sides) facing each other.
Seam allowance – The distance between the seam and the raw edge. If we say, “sew with a ½” seam allowance”, make your stitch line ½” from the raw edge.
Baste– Sewing temporary stitching to hold layers together until more permanent stitches can be sewn. Sometimes basting stitches are large stitches sewn by hand and are later pulled out. In our project, though, basting will be just regular machine stitches that won’t be visible in the final product.
Now let’s get started!
Outer Bag – 2 pieces, 13” wide x 17” tall from your main fabric
Lining – 2 pieces, 13” wide x 17” tall of your accent fabric
Casings – 2 pieces, 12” wide x 3” tall from your accent fabric
Tabs – 1 piece, 12” wide x 2” tall from your accent fabric OR 12” of grosgrain ribbon or twill tape
Cotton rope or cording – 2 pieces, 66” – 70” long
Sew the tabs – Optional
If you are using grosgrain ribbon or twill tape for the tabs, you can skip this section and just cut the ribbon into 3 pieces: 6”, 3” and 3”.
Press the Tab piece (12” wide x 2” tall) in half lengthwise, then open up and fold long edges to the center and press again.
Stitch close to the edge down both sides.
Cut the strip of fabric into 3 pieces: 6”, 3”, and 3”.
Sew the hanging loop – Optional
Take the 6” tab strip (or piece of ribbon) and place the ends side by side centered along the top of one of the Outer Bag pieces, raw edges aligned and right sides up. (The loop will be pointed down.)
Baste in place with 1/4” seam allowance.
Sew the casings
Press the ends of the Casing pieces ½” to the back. Stitch down close to the edge.
Fold the Casing pieces in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together.
Place the Casings across the tops of the Outer Bag pieces, centered and with raw edges aligned. Baste in place with ¼” seam allowance.
If you chose to add the optional hanging loop, the Casing will be layered over the loop.
Baste down the tabs
Place one of your Outer bag pieces right side up.
Fold one of the 3” long Tab strips in half, and place it along the left edge of the Outer bag piece, 1” from the bottom and with raw edges aligned. (The loop will be facing the inside of the bag.)
Baste in place with a ¼” seam allowance.
Repeat with the remaining 3” long Tab strip on the right edge of the Outer bag piece.
Sew the outer bag
Place the Outer Bag pieces right sides together.
Sew around the sides and the bottom with a ½” seam allowance. Leave the top open.
Clip off the seam allowance at the corners. Cut close to but not through the stitch line. Clipping the corners reduces the bulk of fabric in the corner when you turn it right side out.
Turn the Outer Bag right side out.
Sew the lining
Place the Lining bag pieces right sides together.
Sew around the sides and the bottom with a ½” seam allowance, but leave 3” open on one of the sides. This will create a hole you’ll use to turn the bag right side out later.
Assemble the bag
Place the Outer Bag inside the Lining, with right sides together. Sew all the way around the top of the bag with a ½” seam allowance.
Turn the bag right side out through that hole in the side of the Lining. Don’t push the Lining down inside the Outer Bag yet.
Now let’s close that hole. Press the raw edges to the inside of the hole. Sew the hole closed, close to the edge.
NOW push the Lining down inside the Outer Bag.
Finally, let’s thread the cord through to the casings to make the drawstring.
Thread one of the pieces of cording through one casing, back through the other. Thread one of the ends through the tab at the bottom. Tie the ends together in a knot.
Repeat with the other piece of cording, but starting on the opposite side of the pouch.
Your DIY drawstring backpack is done! LOOK WHAT YOU MADE!!!! You’ve got this sewing thing DOWN!
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What a great tutorial, I love how you make every step so clear. The fabric is super cute too.
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Made this for my grandson who is a stock boy for our local Wal-Mart…he will take his lunch and face mask in it…I have not sewed in a couple of years but directions were very clear and illustrations too…thank you!
I love this! Thanks for sharing this with me! And all the best wishes for your grandson!
A friend wanted me to make her this bag, actually two of them!! I followed all your instructions and the images you gave were perfect!!! I have now made my granddaughter one also!!! I will continue to keep making these for gifts!!
Thanks so much!! I’m glad the instruction were helpful, and even happier that you were able to make something special for your granddaughter! –Anne
I just made this in Halloween fabric for my 2YO granddaughter, scaling it down for her size. For the fun of it, I added a zipper pouch to the front for space for extra treasures. I’m putting some Halloween books, spider rings, etc. in it to send off to her. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to get her Mimi “tweats” (no tricks). Thanks for a great pattern!
Just made an unlined backpack w/PUL fabric – will be making more! Cute pattern!